Guests: Barr, Donald; Bloustein, Edward; Spock, Benjamin
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THE OPEN MIND
Host: Richard D. Heffner
Guest: Donald Barr, Edward Bloustein, Benjamin Spock
I’m Richard Heffner, your host on The Open Mind. Our topic is “American Values and the College Generation and it derives largely from the news stories about a recent Daniel Yankelovich study of changing youth values in the 70s. But before I introduce my guests to discuss our topic, I’d like to quote from materials each has said or written, materials that are clearly relevant to our subject today.
First, in August, 1971, Dr. Edward Bloustein, now the President of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, spoke to us as the parents of today’s counterculture, asking why this young generation is so different from us. “We,” he wrote, “we were the children of poverty who came into affluence. We knew the relationship between disciplined effort and reward. We knew what wanting, doing without, and waiting was like. They have lived with affluence all their lives and have not learned to want, to wait for, or to work for what they enjoy. We grew up in a world where we were still able to watch our fathers at work, and we saw the fruit their labors bore. Their fathers, we, work in a world removed, at tasks to technologically complex and so deeply embedded in an organizational structure, that the link between effort and result is obscured. We grew up with mothers who toiled at housework and took pride, if not joy, in their labor. They grow up not with homemakers, but with managers of homes filled with appliances, with mothers who are increasing estranged and in flight from their roles. We grew up in a world where we occasionally played with friends. But we lived with our parents, feeling their influence deeply, even when their work forced them to be away from us They grow up in a world where friends have become more important than parents, and where parents are not at home, even when thy are at home. We grew up in a world where our parents said, “no,” even when they had some doubt about what was right and what was wrong. And, our parents disciplined us as an act of their love. They grow up in a world in which moral skepticism has turned parents into ethical eunuchs, referees rather than sources of direction and where punishment is taken to be an act of denial instead of an act of caring. And so on.
Another guest, Donald Barr, former headmaster of the Dalton School, in his extraordinary athenaeum volume, “Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty?” has written, “nothing can prevent the child from taking into himself and making part of himself, interjecting what appear to him as the wishes, demands, hates, scorns, and standards of his psychological parents. The parent may, in fact, have no standards. Their wishes and demands may be trial and inconsistent. Their hates and scorns may be nothing but stupid, random petulance. They may be quite infantile themselves. Such is the power of this interjected instinct that the child will interject their weakness as if it were strength, with a maligned patterning they lack, so that the internalized images of them exercise a cool and shifty kind of control over his poor little impulses and force him into some fairly nasty internal evasions of his own. Or else, in a jumble, will all its energies cancelled out, so to speak, in which case the child may grow up to be one of those frightening, consciousless kind of people, stone deaf to that particular tone we call ethical.
Our third guest, in his newest W.W. Norton book, “Raising Children in a Difficult Time,” writes in this way: “I’ve always believed and written that parents should stick by their ethical convictions and feel no hesitation in showing them to their children. That they should ask their children for cooperation and respect. That children who are held up to high ideals and considerate behavior are not only a lot pleasanter to live with, but they are happier themselves. To put it frankly, I am much irritated as anyone by children who are chronically rude, unhelpful, and always demanding more for themselves.” And in the February Redbook, this same guest wrote, “Inability to be firm is, to my mind, the commonest problem of parents in America today.” This guest of course, is Dr. Benjamin Spock. And it is interesting to note that the Wall Street Journal, which disagrees with much of Dr. Spock’s political orientation, recently wrote, “however, confused Dr. Spock’s political pronouncements, his child-rearing advice has been sound. There is no way he need be held accountable for overeager parents who mistook his advice to spoil children with love as a recommendation to spoil them with lack of discipline and an overabundance of material goods. Those who involve the Spock name in defense of a flabby permissiveness that denies the need for parental guidelines and authority, simply misunderstood his advice to begin with.” That was the Wall Street Journal, February 26, 1974.
Now, let me introduce my guests, who are, as you know from my readings, first, Dr. Edward Bloustein, who is President of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, a lawyer and philosopher. And secondly, Mr. Donald Barr, former Headmaster at the Dalton School and the author, among other books, of “Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty?” And thirdly, Dr. Benjamin Spock, who, in a very real sense, needs no further introduction because so many of our children, and we ourselves, are in debt to him.
Gentlemen, I’d like to make the point first, and then turn the discussion over to you, that some people today look for a return on the part of what we call the college generation, but actually, in the Yankelovich study, they indicate that we’re talking about changing values in a generation, an age group, those who go to college and those who don’t. Some people look for a return to older values now that Vietnam is behind us. Although Yankelovich seems to say, “no way,” to that. That in a very real sense the political opposition, the political movement may be over, but the cultural changes in relation to ideas concerning sex, morality, religion, authority in the state, authority in the parent, that those notions are going to be unchanged or are going to move further and further toward what some have called the breakdown of authority, or permissiveness. And I wonder what your own assumptions are on that score. Mr. Barr?
Barr: I think the Yankelovich survey is right. There is certainly a great deal of publicity being given to this return to the ‘50s on college campuses, and that’s an optical illusion in my opinion. There is a return to a certain interest in careers. There’s a return to a certain more methodical habit of work, less conspicuous or less flaunting varieties of alternative lifestyles and that kind of thing. But the malaise is still there, I think. And I am not impressed, even as much as the Yankelovich analysts are, by the return of a concern with work, a concern with careers. They appear to regard this as some kind of restoration, some tendency to compromise with the past value system. I do not. I look at the tables in the report, and what I find is the, what they take as positive signs are all selfishness. It’s just a more conservative form of “gimme” than we used to have, but its “gimme.” And that’s the most discouraging thing I can see here. One would expect…
Spock: How do you mean, “gimme?” I wasn’t challenging, I just wanted to hear.
Barr: Well, for example, we have all these tables showing that the college values continue to stress, increasingly in fact, acceptance of sexual freedom and declining interest in religion, patriotism. An increasing interest in marijuana and so on. And then they come to this hopeful sign, the career aspirations on campus, and we find the rising curve, the ability to express yourself, the challenge of the job, the change to get ahead, and job security, money you can earn, a very sharp increase. Prestige of the job, a very sizable percentage increase. And what we’re dealing with here is simply ego ratification and the same self-referring motives, but transferred to the economic domain, whereas previously they were politicized.
Heffner: Well, gentlemen, you agree or disagree? Dr. Spock?
Spock: I think this is obviously ego gratification. There’s always ego gratification. There has to be. You can’t do any kind of work unless you’re getting ego gratification fir it. I don’t want to be in the position of saying they’re all idealistic, all idealists who are not interested in material things at all. I don’t want to say that. But I think, compared to the ‘20s, when I was a youth, the 30s, that I knew quite well as a young person, and the ‘40s and 50s, where there was such very strong materialism expressed, I think that they still retain the idealism, in the sense, at least in the value sense, that they would like to have the right kind of philosophy for themselves. And they would like to contribute somehow to the world. And I disagree, certainly, with the conservative commentators who say they’re going right back to the ‘50s, because I don’t think that they’re going back to the ‘50s. I certainly agree that they’re paying more attention to their lessons and their careers, but I think that’s because they were discouraged about what they could accomplish by being radicals or being activists.
Heffner: Dr. Bloustein?
Bloustein: Well, let me get out of my system one thing I have to say that’s kind of intellectual prudishness. Most students today are just like students always have been. And the kinds of differences that I’m afraid Yankelovich and other studies like his find are really relatively peripheral differences in generations. Most people are the same and will remain the same for very, very long period of time. What he’s finding are differences in what people say they think and say they are, which are quite different from differences in what people really are. Now, having said that, and having said that the differences we’re talking about are relatively peripheral, they have, indeed, taken place. And I disagree with you, Don, that my own experience suggest to me that the careerism I see in the classroom in the university now is quite different from the careerism in the ‘50s.
Barr: That’s exactly what I’m saying. These people have been taken in.
Spock: By appearances. They think because there is rhetorical careerism, they’re looking at what they used to see. They’re not. They’re looking at a rather cynical kind of careerism instead of that earnest stuff we used to get.
Bloustein: No, no, no. I disagree. I disagree. I think the career…. You take the huge advance in the number of people applying to law school. Now, I think it’s sad, and I’m very very unhappy.
Heffner: You say that as a lawyer?
Bloustein: Yes, as a lawyer. So many of them are going in for idealistic motives they’re never going to find fulfilled in law in a million, million years. It’s just not possible that 80 percent of all the students going to law school think they’re going to practice civil rights law and end poverty in America. There’s going to be a pent-up frustration of huge amounts. But their motive is really, relatively few of those students going and applying to law school for the reasons that brought people to law school in the 50’s.
Spock: I’m inclined to think that they use different rhetoric to explain those career choices. I didn’t think….
Barr: but I didn’t think the careerists of the ‘50s were cynical. I think the careerists of the ‘50s believed that the system they were entering was a good system.
Bloustein: I think the careerists of the ‘50s also thought that material values were as important as the American dream always said they were.
Spock: I remember quite well surveys of college students, “what do you want out of life?” and something like 96 percent said, “the biggest salary I can get,” implying, “I don’t care what work I get into.” I would be the last to say that they were vicious and that they’re noble today. Human nature stays very much the same, but I think its…. Attitudes are very significant. And I think that the attitude is different now.
Heffner: What about the value that, well, let’s say, that Yankelovich addresses himself to? Question of sex, question of drugs, question of what we used to call patriotism, attitude towards country? You used an adjective, Mr. Barr, I forget quite what it was, but you seemed to me to be distressed by these attitudes. Whether they were present or not present in the degree to which Yankelovich indicates, you were concerned about, what I would imagine you would call, lowered or lessened human values.
Barr: I find these charts very depressing.
Bloustein: Any charts such as those.
Barr: All charts are somewhat depressing.
Heffner: Which ones?
Barr: I think that the prohibition against marijuana being easily acceptable. Now, more than half of the college students would accept the prohibitions against marijuana now. A little more than a third will accept the prohibition…. I’m sorry. Let see, ’68. So we’re talking about… in a five-year span, the people who would stay away from marijuana and accept the prohibition against marijuana have dropped from over a half to a little over a third. And this, at a time when the papers have led a great many parents to believe that the use of chemical euphoriants and whatnot is declining. It is not declining. The drug business is not over; it’s just certain drugs are over.
Heffner: Well, I wonder how Dr. Spock feels about that, because, for all the assumptions, Dr. Spock, that you are the spokesman for permissiveness. Still, when one reads you closely and carefully, one finds you not al all involved in approving the drug culture. And I wonder how you comment on Mr. Barr’s use of those statistics. An increase in the number. A very real increase in the number of those young people of college age who would not be for banning of marijuana use. That, I think, is the way the thing is set. What’s your own feeling about that?
Spock: Well, I’m a moralist. I didn’t, when I was an adolescent, and when I was a youth, and when I was a young adult, I was trying to shuck the moralism that was imposed on me. Bu I have to admit that in my old age I’ve become increasing back to moralism. But I happen to stand with the young people in disagreeing with the hysteria of the lawmakers and of the authorities who try to consider marijuana’s use a vicious threat to society. I think that the young people are simply realistic in knowing that a great many of their friends have done it and it’s been used for along while, and it’s clearly not nearly as dangerous as alcohol or as tobacco. So…
Heffner: But you’ve set yourself up against all of them; is that right?
Spock: No, no, no. I have a horror of heroin, of course, and some of the middling dangerous drugs. The situation is complicated about marijuana, because just in recent weeks comes a report saying that it causes sterility. If it causes sterility, not only am I not the least bit tolerant toward it, but I’m sure that no young people will use it if that gets confirmed. But let’s pretend for a minute that report didn’t come out. Before that there was no proof. There was no proof that marijuana is dangerous. But that doesn’t keep a state like Texas from throwing people into fail for 20 years because of its use. I think the young simply see this as hysteria, the obstinacy, the stupidity of the older generation. I agree.
Bloustein: And they’re so wrong. What has happened to me on more occasions that I can tell you is that some parent, at a cocktail party for the parents of students, will come over to me half drunk, hardly able to stumble to my place and say, “Dr. Bloustein, isn’t this awful what those students are doing with marijuana?” A besotted parent worrying about his… and I find that most of the students I talk to and see know how to take care of marijuana – I’ve never used it – but they know how to take care of marijuana much better than I know how to take care of alcohol, or that most of my colleagues know how to take care of alcohol. They’ve assimilated it. They were very bright when LSD came in; they saw within a shot time it was a dangerous drug. And as soon as the evidence accumulated, they changed their patterns.
Barr: I think the resistance to the evidence as to the harmfulness of marijuana is a long history of blindness to a not suddenly appearing but long…
Bloustein: Would you say its danger was any stronger than that of alcohol? The evidence…
Barr: I think there’s evidence that the kind of damage that alcohol does is more readily cues or warned against to the user by side effects than it is with marijuana.
Spock: There’s no question about it that alcohol kills hundred of thousands of people.
Barr: It’s a dangerous drug…
Spock: …and it ruins lives of the alcoholics.
Barr: Quite so.
Spock: And tobacco. But there’s never been any proof in the past about marijuana.
Heffner: Well, we can disagree on the effects of marijuana.
Barr: I didn’t say that, Dr. Spock. What I sad was that you can use marijuana without any of the side effects warning you that you are overusing it, whereas with alcohol it’s very hard not to notice what you’re doing. And if you then go on doing it, you’re doing it knowingly. And that is really quite a difference with young people.
Heffner: Mr. Barr, Dr. Spock a moment ago said that he was an old fashioned moralist. When we raised the question of drugs we sort of set that aside. Where does this old-fashioned morality come in? What level? On sexual activity among young people today? Attitudes toward religion? Attitude toward the state? Toward their country? Where?
Spock: Well, such a thing as, I think that all children should be grout up in the United States with a feeling that they have strong obligations to society. That society has enormous problems that could be solved and aren’t being solved. And as I would say they ought to be brought up with this kind of moralism. And, in a sense, that would be kind of patriotism. I think when the young say – you mentioned the word “patriotism” – when the young say they don’t have much belief in patriotism, they’re thinking of the kind of patriotism that made a great majority of the citizens follow Lyndon Johnson blindly into a war. That’s the kind of patriotism they’re disillusioned with. I want to steal patriotism back. I think it’s a perfectly good word, and that all Americans should be brought up with that kind of patriotism. Not the kind saluting the flag, because I think that’s a kind of a stupid…
Bloustein: But I like saluting the flag
Spock: I have no objection to that.
Barr: Paul Goodman said a very interesting thing shortly before he died, and he was an…
Spock: I’m sorry I said that. I don’t….
Barr: …authentic anarchist. He said that he felt that his children, in the ultra-progressive schools he had formerly sent them to, had missed something very important, very reassuring, and very creative in their lives and that only when they arrived in public schools in California and went through these rituals did they discovery something that had been rather cruelly withheld from them. And as an anarchist, I don’t think you can say that Goodman ever faltered. Now, I really think that you are much too ready to say, “I’m in favor of a different kind of patriotism. I’m in favor of a different kind of mortality.” Your morality strikes me as really sort of piety on public issues and has very little to do with self-control and things like that. A denial of the grosser pleasures of exploiting your fellow man. And there’s a tremendous tendency among young people and some older people, Dr. Spoke, to say, “I’m denouncing evildoers in the world at large, and it is less important what I personally do.
Spock: I never said that anything like that at all. I….
Barr: No, but there is…
Spock: May I go on please?
Heffner: Excuse me. Let Dr. Spock continue.
Spock: Please let me go on. You interrupted me right in the middle. I’m sorry I brought up saluting the flag, or the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. I’m for thoughtful patriotism. A thing that is discussed in the class or discussed between parents and their children. I’m not trying to dictate what the patriotism is. I just think saluting the flag is a thoughtless kind of patriotism that doesn’t mean anything.…
Heffner: What about Mr. Barr’s…
Bloustein: Oh, yes, it does. I find that I can salute the flag, remembering the ideals that the flag represents – too rarely fulfilled – but I get real emotional, spiritually uplift from facing that flag and having it remind me of the ideals for which the flag stands.
Spock: Such as liberty and justice for all.
Bloustein: Okay. And I don’t think you’re denying that.
Heffner: Dr. Spock, Mr. Barr talked about self-control and denial of the grosser pleasures of doing our fellow man in. But, joking aside, self-control. Are you feeling this to be a value that is present to a lesser degree today?
Spock: No, I don’t. I think that the young are quite self-controlled. And I would call them puritanical in many things. I think they’re, the way they play down their personal appearance, and the way they wear what look like poverty stricken clothes from the point of view of the older generations; I think many of their attitudes about sexuality are actually puritanical. It’s a different kind of Puritanism that my parents brought me up to, but I think that they’re definitely a self-denying group. I think such a thing as their general interest – not on the party of all by any means—but this feeling that’s been discussed a great deal by the young, would it be better to live simply instated of living ostentatiously; I don’t think that’s denied.
Bloustein: I sort of tend to think that it’s a little more complicated. The examples you gave are examples of self-discipline, but I can find lots where it had not been self-disciplined. For instance, they have none of the discipline of democracy. They are much too impatient with the processes of deliberate democracy. They want things to happen too fast politically. They have too little patience, many of them – and this I’m happy to see changing somewhat – too little patience with hard work, hard intellectual work. They want easy solutions. They want slogans. They want intellectual pap instead of a lot of the hard work. I find, as you do, their attitudes toward sex are much more conventional than most people realize, and that some of their attitudes toward other aspect of their lives who discipline; but I do believe – and I think it’s one of the things I was trying to say in that book – that they have been disadvantaged by all of the advantages. This is a kind of paradox, but they’re very disadvantaged children in that they’re not learned to want, and therefore not learned to wait for the wanting to be over so that they can do something.
Spock: Of course, I regret this as much as anyone since I was very active in opposing the war in Vietnam, and so few of the young people who become activists remained activists fore more than a year. I was talking to an old radical labor organizer in Chicago, telling him about my disappointment. I think that the ideals of the young, by and large, are wonderful, but that they expect results in a very short time. And he looked real weary. He’s my age; I’m 71. He looked real weary and said, “Ben, there were always very few activists. Very few people remain activists in any cause for along while.”
Bloustein: They pretended to more, you see. Back in the ‘30s, no one… there was a whole student generation who watched the activists and said, “oh, let those nuts go.” But here a whole generation of students acted as if they were activists, and they really weren’t. And they really didn’t have the patience to do what you’ve done and pursue this with the kind of discipline that I think is an old-fashioned virtue and which I value and I wish, dammit, my kids had it as strong as I did.
Spock: We’re in complete agreement here.
Heffner: Well, but you say “complete agreement.” Let’ not move away from that, because it seems to me that you two may be in complete agreement, Dr. Bloustein and Dr. Spock. Donald Barr, I think you’re saying that when it works out in real life, it doesn’t happen that way.
Barr: No, it doesn’t. I repeat what I said. I keep getting this kind of reply, “well, it’s true they don’t practice sexual self-denial or continence, or what used to be called chastity, but there is some kind of metaphysical Puritanism about the fornication they engage in, you know?
Spock: It’s not metaphysical Puritanism. They’re very puritanical.
Bloustein: No. There’ much less promiscuity among this generation of college students than in my generation.
Spock: I agree on that.
Bloustein: Promiscuity now. I’m not using promiscuity to mean sexual relations unhinged from love. Now, one of the bad things you can do in this generation, or one of the no good things, is to detach sex from love. In my generation, not only wasn’t that bad, but you were look on as a kind of student hero if your sex exploits never involved love, and they shouldn’t. The two were distinct.
Heffner: Sexuality, seriotin? That qualifies too?
Bloustein: No. Actually, that’s inconsistent with…. It’s a very monogamous kind of extramarital sexual play.
Spock: One at a time is monogamous?
Heffner: Is that your definition of monogamy?
Spock: I do not conceive of monogamy without some permanence or fidelity.
Bloustein: They have that same sense of permanence and fidelity.
Barr: Well, it’s a temporary permanence is what you’re telling me, and I don’t see it that way.
Bloustein: No, but it’s more permanent that what my generation did.
Barr: Well, I didn’t have the advantage of going to college you did.
Spock: I think another word that I think focuses right in on the difference they are nonexploitive in their sexual…. Not only not casual, not promiscuous, but nonexplotive. In other words, there’s much more…. The relationships are based much more on love and much more on tenderness. I’m not saying everybody is…
Barr: Headmasters are occasionally the recipients of student confessions, of sobbing, and expressions for the need for comfort, and request for help with problems, too, along with presidents and pediatricians. And I tell you, it is not so. It is not so that there is a kind of nonexploitive quality to these relationships. It’s just that they are surrounded, or surround themselves, or have been surrounded by their elders with an exculpatory rhetoric, which works a little longer. But what they do, and what it means to them internally, what they come to find out sooner or later, is exactly what the promiscuous youngster did. He may read Eros and Civilization or know a fellow who knows a fellow who read Eros and Civilization by Marcouza, and he may think for a while he’s doing something different, but it turns out that in terms of their psyches it’s not different, it is exploitive, there’s a tremendous amount of mutual exploitation. True. Not in some vulgar capitalist kind of exploitation where you collect trophies, but it is exploiting people as self-therapy. It is using other people to fill an entirely privatized, temporary ache.
Heffner: But we do that to ourselves, Mr. Barr.
Barr: Use others.
Heffner: We open up our arms and embrace them as they do us. And you seem to find this a negative aspect of…
Barr: I find it a very unkind thing that youngsters should be in a position to act out these fantasies. It’s unkind to the youngsters because the fantasies are the same old fantasies that adolescents have always had.
Spock: I’m please now that I’m going back to….
Barr: Acting out the fantasies. Fulfilling them and acting them out is a very unkind thing to let them do.
Heffner: Dr. Bloustein?
Bloustein: Well, I just want to return to that cautionary word I said at the very beginning. Most sexual behavior has been relatively unchanged in, I would think, a 20-30-40-50-year-period. What we’re talking about is a kind of leading edge, a very, very small group of youngsters who set a style and a pattern in what they say and how they read and interpret what they do. And there has been a significant change. Now, you have seen exploitive youngsters. And I’m sure they are there and there are a very significant number of them. I’m telling you that there are also youngsters who have turned sexual life into something wonderful and fulfilling. I don’t know what the numbers are. I think there are a significant, substantial number of youngsters who have found in their new pattern of sexual relationships real forms of fulfillment, nonexploitive, that make a better thing of love and sex than has been made before.
Spock: I think all we can say is, certainly, compared to when I was young in the ‘20s, certainly very quantitatively different from the ‘50s when I also knew lots of young people. In other words, relatively there’s been a big change in the nonexploitive direction.
Heffner: But, Dr. Spock, you know, I think of you as, not the mother figure of warmth, but the father figure of warmth. I know that you embrace the youth you know with great warmth and great acceptance. And I know that you struggle to accept many things that, as you say, your own moral background makes you a little uneasy with. But how can you maintain the feeling that there is not a lessened morality when what happens today does mean the continuing breakdown or eating away at the family life, which you revere, that the sexual freedom that we’re talking about taking place after marriage, which seems to come after an attitude of sexual freedom before marriage, certainly means an end to the kind of society that you were brought up to respect, and I know from your writing you do respect. On the one hand, you seem to want to say that you do respect these older virtues, and on the other hand, you want to embrace all of these young people with the great warmth you’ve always demonstrated.
Spock: Well, let me get a little bit more specific. I certainly don’t want to trouble you by contradictory images.
Heffner: I can hold two ideas, contrary in my mind, at the same time; not three.
Spock: I, for instance, in writing a book for teenagers, and in writing articles for parents and writing the books for parents, I think parents ought to implant high ideals about sexuality. That it’s wrong for parents to be joking about sexuality or joking about marriage or to be setting a vulgar example for their children. One of the reasons that I dared to be that old fashioned, even in my advice to teenagers, is because I read of a conference of college psychiatrists a few years ago where they said one of the commonest problems, they agreed, was the number of young people who didn’t feel ready for full sexual experience. Something like half of the undergraduates who had been persuaded by their more, well, less inhibited classmates that they must be perverse, they must be impotent, or they must be frigid, or they must be homosexual or something. And they go to the psychiatrist saying, “is it true that I am perverse because I’m not ready for sexual experience?” So, I think there are plenty of those still. And all this talk about the changed sexual morays, when you compare the figures from the Kinsey Report, which was only 25 years ago, and – I forget the name of the other report that came out questioning undergraduates very thoroughly – it showed that there have been relatively small.
Bloustein: …very little change in a 40-year period.
Spock: Differences in the numbers who, for instance, by junior and senior year in college had come to full sexual experience, heterosexual experience.
Bloustein: That’s one of the misleading things about a study of this sort. There are many valuable things but this study is a study of the verbal behavior of people. And what has changed is what students say about their sexual life. But there’s been relatively little change in what they do about their sexual life.
Heffner: Well, then what about…
Bloustein: And this wouldn’t detect that change at all.
Heffner: Yes, but you’ve addressed yourself to the fact that they haven’t developed de novo. We carried them ourselves. This is our culture. What is it that we’ve done that’s made it possible, perhaps even necessary, to respond to questions in this way, if you’re correct that behavior is different from the verbal response? What have we done to lead our children to respond to these questions in this way regarding patriotism, sex, religion, etcetera?
Bloustein: I think a very simple thing. And the analogy I always draw is that a child has the same capacity to see hypocrisy in an adult that a dog has to see fear in a human being. A child has an unerring instinct for phoniness. And what our children saw, I think, in us, especially in the ‘50s and ‘60s, the postwar period, was a series of hypocritical postures. We drank too much and yet we… …I mean our middle class, my colleagues, my friends. We drank too much and we spoke out against marijuana. We were patriotic and yet we pursued a war that did us in. We spoke about the values of life, intellectual values of life, and we were a more materialistic culture than the world has seen. On three scores at least, our young people have seen through our posturing to a reality they didn’t like. And that’s why they’re responding to.
Heffner: In the preface to those comments in “the University and the Counterculture,” which I quoted from your book before, you said, “my thesis is a simple one. It is that the process of cultural upheaval we see going on around us is not really children’s crusade at all. Cultural upheaval was in our wombs. We gave birth to the counterculture. They are rather bearing witness, openly and forcefully, for all to see, of what has already happened.” You talk about hypocrisy. And now you say, “what has already happened.” Do you think we’ve moved so forcefully that we can’t move back?
Bloustein: One of the studies that is very remarkable is the study of the activist generation of the ‘60s and compare it to their parents. Now, a lot of people thought that parental generation of the great activists of the ‘60s would have been very conservative parents. They weren’t. They were very progressive parents.
Spock: Quite so.
Bloustein: The revolt was that these were children who were telling their parents, “look, that what you say seriously enough. You’ve said it; now I’m going to do it.” You’ve had that sexual experience; I’m not going to talk about it and have it.”
Barr: Curiously enough, I don’t think that there was that much of a generational challenge. And I think that the children of progressive parents act out their parents’ repressed fantasies and not-so-repressed fantasies. And the evidence, to me, seems to show that the parents really were not so strikingly disapproving of it. There way always charge against hypocrisy, but it was leveled at a fictional generation of parents, not their own, I think…
Bloustein: My child who didn’t buy a dress hasn’t, I don’t think to this day, for about 15 years, and only buys clothes out of second-hand stores, was saying something not about me, necessarily, but saying something about a generation of parents which were spending too much money on clothing. And that…
Barr: Did you?
Bloustein: I didn’t. I’m not saying the realtionship….
Barr: …that’s what I’m saying…. Parents they call hypocrites.
Bloustein: But that’s true. Why should you find that difficult?
Barr: I don’t find it difficult.
Bloustein: Are we, as a culture, spending too much of our national income on clothing? I think the answer is yes. Are we, as a culture, spending too much on cosmetics?” I think the answer is yes. And all our children do are saying this by acting out….
Barr: I think if you do a consumer study of it you’ll find that it isn’t localized in the parental generation.
Heffner: Okay, but we’re the only ones they have, Dr. Spock.
Spock: I had another thought about why the young…. I think there are two other factors, perhaps, why the young have made such a switch in, at least, the ideals they talk about. I think partly it’s a different child-rearing philosophy on the part of, at least, middle-class parents. I think that the ideas of Freud, that it’s love and intense family relationships, not punishment or arbitrary discipline; I think it’s John Dewey saying you don’t have to force learning down the throat of children, that children are wild to learn. And I think that I sort of retail these things to parents through my books and articles. And I think that all of these have said to parents, “you don’t have to mistrust your children so much. You don’t have to intimidate them so much all through childhood to be sure that they’re going to turn out good in there characters. They’re going to do most of the work.” And I think that the most characteristic thing of all of the youth generation at present is that you can’t intimidate them. I was a professor in medical school until I had to retire seven years ago for age. And I deliberately tried to intimidate the first-year class at Western Reserve Medical School, because so many of them were coming late and they were bringing coffee in cups. And I talked quietly to them, I thundered at them. It didn’t make the slightest difference to them. I am an expert because I was intimidated all through my childhood. I was scared of my parents, of the police, of my teachers, of barking dogs. You can’t intimidate them, no matter how hard you try. I think that’s because they weren’t intimidated in childhood, because they parents felt they didn’t have to intimidate them.
Bloustein: You’ve just explained why it’s difficult to be a university president. If only I could ride on that basic intimidation.
Spock: I think that’s true.
Bloustein: One thing I will say, coming back to something you said – and I think this may show that I don’t disagree with Donald about everything – I do think that this generation has made ghastly errors about the family and the role of the family. Very, very bad errors. I think their notion of companion marriage suffers, it’s simplistic. Their rejection of the traditional family is really not a terribly intelligent rejection.
Heffner: Why do you say that?
Bloustein: Well, I have the feeling that they think as long as there is no marriage license that everything is going to be simple and easy. That their relationships then are made for them,. You reject the marriage license, you have a form of perfect marriage. Well what they have forgotten is that the marriage license is indeed not what makes a marriage; that you still have to work out the problems of human love and complicated human relationships, that the fact you don’t have a marriage license doesn’t make those relationships any easier to work out. And, in fact in one sense, not having the marriage license compounds the difficulty because there’s no easy form of divorce to these nonmarried marriages. At least in a marriage you know how to terminate it because that same symbolic act which started it, terminates it. Many of the sufferings of young people are sufferings in relationships, which they don’t know to terminate. There’s no socially acceptable way for them to terminate.
Heffner: I think you’re probably correct in saying that this would make Donald Barr feel that you two were in agreement; but what about you, Dr. Spock, on this question of the family and marriage?
Spock: I feel that they grossly oversimplify marriage and the problems of marriage. And I feel that they grossly oversimplify sex when you say, when they say, “Sex is a purely wholesome instinct which is meant to be enjoyed.” I think that that’s ten percent of sex. But I think that leaves out the whole rest of sexuality in the human beings. I happen to agree with Freud and other people that the whole of civilization is built on a partial inhibition of sexuality in childhood and a sublimation of those drives into art, literature, architecture, gardens and so on.
Barr: Sailing, too, certainly.
Heffner: I’m sorry, Mr. Barr, may I just go on and ask Dr. Spock then, given that feeling, relating to sublimation…
Heffner:…what is it, how is it that you relate to these young people who look to you, as so many do, as a person who embraces them and permits everything? What can be your relationship?
Spock: Well, I think they feel friendly with me in other things, aside from sexuality. And I realize that I would be just banging my head against a stone wall if I tried to argue them into marriage. As a matter of fact, let’s say I have tried a few. A couple of months ago I was invited to be part of a symposium on human sexuality at Washington University, St. Louis. This surprised me very much. I’ve never been asked to speak on sexuality before. I was surprised to be thought of as somebody, at leas a pseudo-expert. I told them right from the beginning, “I’m very old fashioned about sexuality,” and I gave them some examples of how inhibited I was in childhood. I had a huge audience. They were very enthusiastic. I was all the rest of the day on the campus, and students kept coming across the campus. They would be going that way and they’d see me and they’d come across and say, “great speech.” Well, this astounds me even more that they liked, you know, I was…
Spock: I was also telling them it doesn’t mean that you’re perverse or abnormal if you have inhibitions about sexuality, though, that that level of the population is the product of the creative one has always imposed these inhibition on their children. By implication, I’d say, they will all their emancipated ideas are going to impose the some ones on their children, I think, in most cases.
Heffner: Mr. Barr, I inhibited you before, and I know that will never happen again, so…
Barr: I was about to say that there’s a difference between saying that a youngster should be free to do what he wants even if it’s to remain chaste, and saying that there is a positive value to not doing what you have an impulse to do at all times. I would like to say a word…
Bloustein: You don’t think that I would disagree or Dr. Spock would disagree with the latter statement, do you?
Barr: Here’s, you see, Dr. Spock has a winning way of saying, I’m really terribly old fashioned,” and then when you listen carefully, what he says isn’t quite so old fashioned as you thought it was going to be.
Bloustein: It must’ve fooled me.
Barr: He says, for example, he reassures them that if they don’t want to do these things, they shouldn’t be pressured into it. And there I obviously agree. I also think, perhaps, that if they do want to do these things, they should be dissuaded from doing them.
Heffner: Is that where you two part company? Dr. Spock?
Spock: I don’t know how you would dissuade a college student. I mean, he’s not going to listen to his parents very much, and he’s certainly not going to listen to me.
Barr: Well, because I am used to dealing with high school students more than college students. But I do think…
Bloustein: That’s a little late, too.
Heffner: Are you implying that they obey their parents?
Barr: Actually, they do if their parents have any courage.
Heffner: Yes, but doesn’t the whole point with which you may have disagreed, that we have lost that courage, Dr. Spock maintains, that we have not taken ourselves seriously enough, and that’s why I read this…
Barr: I agree with that part of Dr. Spock. I am saying that Dr. Spock is resting what I regard as a good case on partial grounds. I think there was a positive value to the old fashioned prohibitions. I think that the conditions in colleges, the trouble with the conditions in colleges that permit this kind of experimental cohabitation in dormitories is not only that youngsters get pressured into doing what they’re not really ready to do, or would prefer not to do but are ashamed to admit it, but also that it is a, there a kind of an adult statement being made by this lifting of the parietal rules saying, “there really was nothing to those prohibitions, ever.”
Heffner: Well, isn’t that what Dr. Bloustein said, that that’s our culture, we have created it?
Barr: You said there is something of value and, you know, I guess there’s something of value about anything. I think, on the whole, those repressive attitudes toward sexuality ruined more lives than they saved.
Spock: And I disagree with that.
Barr: Now, I’m not suggesting that the pattern that our students have found, or the pattern we’re now living with has the answer to all of our problems. It seems to me a much more civilized, healthy, and positive attitude toward life than was represented by the attitudes towards sex that my parents projected to me, which were, I guess, very similar, though, to those.
Barr: Mine were worse.
Bloustein: I suffered a kind of inadequacy that I see no reason for people to suffer. And I think part of my life was distorted in ways. Now, there are new distortions that are coming in. Dr. Spock had mentioned some of them. I’ve mentioned others. But I’m not going to return to that old pattern, because I don’t think that.
Barr: No. But I think excessive repudiation has been too eager by your…
Bloustein: …but the nature of contemporary marriage should tell us a lesson. Why is it that a third of our marriages are breaking down? Is that a pattern that any of us can sit here and be happy with? Why is it that women have been put by that pattern into an impossible position in our culture? Totally impossible. One I cannot live with and I wouldn’t want my children to live with. Those were at least two of the accompaniments of that pattern of sexual life which you say there was something valuable in, and indeed there was. It’s hard to find occasionally, but I guess there was something of value in it. I don’t know.
Spock: I love this business of what you called cohabitation in the dormitories. In the first place, universities and parents didn’t think that up. It was the students who said, “stop treating us like children.” And I would bet anything that there’s no more cohabitation in a sexual sense in the dormitory, in a coeducational dormitory, than there was in the olden days when there was no such thing.
Barr: I admire your optimism at your age.
Bloustein: Well, I would underscore it, but I’m younger.
Heffner: I agree with Dr. Spock’s statement “stop treating us like children.” I had a feeling, particularly when I read the Redbook piece, that you were saying one of our troubles is that we aren’t treating our children like children.
Spock: Well, of course, I’m writing in Redbook magazine, which advertises itself as the magazine of young parents. I’m talking to parent who have children of one year or three years or six years, and I’m telling them about things like toilet training. “Don’t be afraid to toilet train.” Because I think it’s particularly back there that parents are uncertain. I’m just telling them, “don’t be afraid to let your convictions show to your children, either then or in adolescence.” I think showing your convictions is something entirely different from trying to be a policeman and going around. I think that children ought to know that their parents feel that there something in monogamy and that marriage is predominantly a contribution, and that it’s good for young people to hear their parents say that, even if the young say, “I’ve heard it. I’ve thought it over. It’s not going to be my rule.” My hunch would be that three out of four of them, by the time they get to be 30, have a family of their own and a job of their own, that they will come back largely to where their parents were. Not with so much hypocrisy, but they’re going to…
Bloustein: This is one of those things I find most distressing among the parental generation I deal with and see in some of my own colleagues. They took you to mean when you said, “you can’t make a child do something,” that you shouldn’t talk to a child about what he or she is doing. And those are two very, very different things. Now, I don’t make my daughters do anything, and I stopped making them do anything at the age, I guess, or, it varied. It depended upon the things that were at issue. Maybe anywhere between nine and 15. Certain things I stopped making them do at nine, and others at 15. What I insist, and I insist it to this day, that they discuss with me what they do. That part of what I mean by love is the capacity to discuss these things with them, and that they may reject everything and anything I say, but I do want to be heard, and I do want them to at least explain to me so that they can explain to themselves what they’re doing. They may thereafter, go about and do it. But it’s this difficulty that parents find in making a distinction between making a child do something and advising them, counseling the, lovingly discussing with them what they do. The parent who sat back and said, “I can’t make my child do anything,” and then shut their mouth, hid their values, never spoke and expressed their values, that’s the parent that really is the most destructive of all.
Heffner: Donald Barr? On that topic? You look so glum.
Bloustein: I think he’s discouraged.
Barr: Let me say two things. Present company excepted. Of all the kinds of rhetoric that depress me, it seems to me the most depressing is generational breast-beating. It depresses me to find adults sort of accepting in the name of some vague entity called a generation a guilt, which then has the curious effect of authorizing behavior, which, by observation makes children unhappy. The second comment I have to make is that I don’t know when.
Bloustein: I agree with that first one.
Barr: All right. The second one is, I don’t know when you gentlemen think somebody becomes a consenting adult. My experience with people on the way to becoming consenting adults is it may happen at 71. It may happen at 40. But there is no point in restricting the notion of the parent, not just as a moral advisor, but as a moral authority. There is no point in confining it to infants. It seems to me the transition to adulthood comes when somebody becomes literally self-sufficient. Economically, in terms of his ability to protect and maintain himself. And this is why I think the college generation is, in fact, being given the privileges of adults, consenting adults, and the immunities of adults, but also retaining the immunities of children. And it seems to me that this kind of adolescent never-never land in which parent sustain and maintain with their fees and their credit cards a life in which the student is a child econonically and an adult sexually is far worse than what you were accusing college administrators and parent of doing in the past. Far worse.
Spock: It’s just not clear to me how a parent or a college authority can be authoritative by the time the child is 20 years of age. I’ve never heard of any system that would…
Bloustein: It depends on the function.. I thought you were saying something I do agree with, namely, that there are some controls over my 21-year-old-child I will still exercise. There are others I won’t, essentially because I can’t, but also because I think it’s inconsistent with that child’s own fuller development. In those terms, I think you’re right. I also would agree with you that this younger generation, like all generations of people, want to play lots of games both ways. They want to tell me I cannot be a parietal figure except when they’re arrested and want me to come and put up bail.
Barr: Quite so.
Bloustein: There is that playing both sides of that alley, and I think that’s very destructive. And I think many parents, you’re quite right have played into this by paying all the bills but not insisting upon some of the prerogatives of paying the bills. I tell my children regularly, “if you want me to pay that bill, there are certain consequences you’re going to have to face. Namely, I won’t subsidize other things.”
Heffner: And it’s at that point, of course, that you have arranged for your children the program to come to an end. Thank you very much for joining me today, Dr. Edward Bloustein, President of Rutgers, the state University of New Jersey; Donald Barr, former headmaster of the Dalton School in New York City; and Dr. Benjamin Spock, pediatrician to many generations. And thanks, too, to you people in the audience. I hope that you will join us again on THE OPEN MIND. Meanwhile, as an old friend used to say, “good night, and good luck.”